There wasn’t much to choose between the St. John’s Edge and Sudbury Five during the National Basketball League of Canada’s regular season.
And there wasn’t much to choose between them Friday night at Mile One Centre in Game 1 of their best-of-five opening-round playoff series.
In a contest that, in large part, came down to foul shots in the late stages, the Five shaded the Edge 100-99, transferring home-court advantage in the series to Sudbury.
Game 2 is Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.) at Mile One.
The expansion Five had entered the series as the highest-scoring team in the NBLC, averaging better than 112 points per game over the course of the 40-game regular season, and were at a nearly a 120-point per game pace over the last eight games of the campaign. That meant the Edge’s main goal was to suppress Sudbury’s offence as best as possible, and for the most part, that’s what happened Friday, when the visitors never got above 28 points in any quarter.
But the Edge couldn’t get the scoring they needed in the latter part of the game.
St. John’s had a great start to the fourth quarter, hitting on seven of its first eight shots in the frame. But after taking an 88-80 lead with six-and-a-half minutes left, the Edge missed seven straight shots over the next four minutes, allowing the Five to erase the deficit.
In all, the Edge went four-for-15 from the floor in the last half of the fourth quarter, one of the misses coming when Glen Davis’s last-second hook shot wouldn’t fall for what would have been the winning points.
Compounding things was St. John’s inability to take more advantage of its free-throw opportunities in the late going. The Edge were just three-for-seven from the charity stripe in the fourth.
Davis finished with a team-leading 18 points to go with 11 rebounds, while Dez Lee (16 points, 15 rebounds) joined him in the double-double category for St. John’s. They were two of a half dozen Edge players to score in double figures, along with Olu Ashaolu (17), Junior Cadougan (13), Isaiah Tate (13) and Jared Nickens (11).
Cory Dixon came off the bench to score 24 points to help the expansion Five to there first-ever playoff win and their first victory at Mile One.
Sudbury had lost two games in St. John’s in December, results that made the Edge the winner of the three-game regular-season series, something that gave St. John’s the extra game in this playoff matchup; the teams both had 21-19 regular-season records, but the head-to-head results had given the tiebreaker advantage — and second place in the Central Division— to the Edge.
But now it’s St. John’s which must win at least one away game in this series, which switches to Sudbury for matchups on April 10 and April 12. The latter carries the “if necessary” tag, something the Edge will want to snip off as soon as possible.
If a Game 5 is required, it will be Sunday, April 14 at Mile One.
Attendance Friday was 3,513 … With star gard Carl Englsh stll sidelined after thumb surgery, the Edge entered the playoffs with an 11-man active roster ... St. John’s had a 51-42 advantage in rebounding in Game 1, including a remarkable 18-6 edge in the fourth quarter … Sudbury’s Braylon Rayson had 22 points, while Jaylen Bland and former Edge point guard Maurice Jones each had 18 for the Five … Jones is the second prominent ex-Edge player to suit up for Sudbury. The other is centre/forward Grandy Glaze, who was with the Five when they visited St. John’s in December, but has since left the NBLC for a league in South America …